This is the second in a short series of posts on Greta Christina's article in AlterNet describing why atheists have to talk about atheism.
(See: Alternet, Why Do Atheists Have To Talk About Atheism)
Reason 2: The Evils of Religion
Another part – and probably more important – is that many atheists see religion not just as a mistaken idea but as a harmful one . . . We see people bombing buildings, abusing children, committing flagrant fraud, shooting political dissenters, etc., . . . all behind the armor of religion . . . and we feel the need to speak out.
Yes, atheist bigots do this.
There is a principle of logic called modus tollens that says that if A implies B, then whatever counts as a reason for rejecting B also implies the rejection of A.
So, if the proposition, "at least one God exists" entailed that it is legitimate to bomb buildings, abuse children, commit flagrant fraud, or shoot political dissenters, then the reasons that exist to reject those conclusions would also imply that we should reject the proposition that at least one God probably exists.
However, the simple fact is that A does not imply B in this case. You cannot draw any moral implications from the simple proposition, "At least one God exists." Therefore, the claim that the reasons we have to reject B are reasons to reject A violate the fundamental principles of logic.
This, in turn, is evidence atheists are just as capable as theists at letting their need to denigrate others cloud their thinking, causing them to embrace illegitimate arguments purely because it helps them to feel good about treating others unjustly.
Religions are make-believe stories. As such, people do not get their morality from religion. Instead, they assign their morality to religion. All of the moral faults that one might assign to those who believe in God are a part of human nature.
The evils that some people assign to God others are just as capable of assigning to a non-religious moral power.
Intrinsic values, categorical imperatives, social contracts, impartial observers, Gaia, man-qua-man, the fundamental nature of humans, these are all just as imaginary as any God. As such, people are just as capable of assigning their evils to these entities as they are of assigning their evils to God. Any one of these can be turned into a justification for bombing a building, or for shooting a political dissenter.
We see this in Sam Harris' argument in defense of torture, Christopher Hitchens' defense of the invasion of Iraq, the defense of defrauding churches of their property (when PZ Myers sought a communion wafer to desecrate), and, indeed, the very example of illogical and unjust anti-theist bigotry being discussed in this posting.
We also have moral subjectivism, by which an agent can justify anything he wants to do merely by recognizing the fact that he wants to do it.
Those who want to give their natural desires an illusion of legitimacy without assigning them to God can now assign them to evolution instead. On this account we have evolved a moral sense such that if one has no 'evolved sense' that something is wrong, then it isn’t wrong.
If the block the channels by which people assign their prejudices to God to give them an illusion of legitimacy, it is a simple matter to shift to one of these other non-religious channels instead. These evils come from human nature itself, and it is foolish to think that atheists are somehow immune (or that you can make somebody a better person merely by changing his beliefs about God).
The real culprit here is not belief in God. The real culprit is the practice of blinding oneself to easily disproved logical fallacies embraced, not because they are reasonable, but because they give an illusion of legitimacy to a conclusion that one finds emotionally appealing.
The practice of claiming that 'religion' is responsible for bombings, shielding child abuse, and shooting political dissenters rather than ‘rationalization’ turns out to be just one more example of people abandoning reason to give an emotionally appealing conclusion an illusion of legitimacy.